From The Hippo’s Ears: Burundi

Facts you may not have know about Burundi:

Burundi, officially the Republic of Burundi, is a landlocked country amid the African Great Lakes region where East and Central Africa converge.

Burundi has a population of approximately 10.5 million, and gained independence from Belgium in 1962.

1.  When you first meet someone, how do you greet them?

A handshake with the right hand is the most common form of greeting. At any time of the day, it is common and appropriate to greet others saying amakuru (‘what’s the news?’). Amakuru comes from the verb gukura which means ‘to grow,’ or ‘to become big.’ Consequently, you are not asking about just any news, but the headlines, the big news. The answer is n’amahoro (‘it is peaceful,’ or ‘it is calm’).

2. What languages are spoken in the country?

Burundi has three official languages – Kirundi, French, and English. Swahili can be found spoken along the Tanzanian border and it has some official recognition by law as a language “spoken and taught” in the country. Kirundi is spoken by the vast majority of the population.

3. Do you use a twelve hour clock, or a twenty-four hour clock?

We use a 24-hour system.

4. What side of the road do people drive on? What do we need to know about driving in the country?

We drive on the right side of road.

5. How important is punctuality?

Time is flexible in Burundi. People don’t always arrive on time for meetings – this is part of the culture.

6. Which types of music are popular? Who are some of the most popular musicians?

The drum such as the karyenda is one of central importance. Internationally, the country has produced the music group Royal Drummers of Burundi. One feature of Burundian men’s folk songs is the presence of an inanga, a type of stringed zither. Other popular instruments include Ingoma drums, made from tree trunks, and the inzogera, a closed bell. Popular Burundian-Belgian musicians include Khadija Nin, Ciza Muhirwa, and Éric Baranyanka.

For a taste of Burundian music, listen to Khadija Nin’s Wale Watu.

Burundian Presidential Palace.

7. Are there any Traditional Dances?

Traditional dance is strong within Burundian culture, and often accompanies the drumming, which is frequently seen in celebrations and family gatherings. Some Burundian artisans have special songs to accompany different stages of their work.

Watch an traditional drumming-dance performance from Burundi here.

8.  What traditional Festivals are celebrated in the country?

Sorghum festival (umuganuro)

A magnificent display of traditional dances by court dancers (intore). Also participating in the festival are drummers beating the Karyenda (“sacred drum”), an emblem of the monarchy—their performance is intended to give both musical and symbolic resonance to this festival and to other ceremonial occasions.

Sauti Za busara

This festival brings people together to celebrate African music under African skies. The 17th edition will take place in Stone Town, Zanzibar from 13th – 16th February 2020. It will feature over 400 musicians over 4 days, as well as a parade and fringe events by the local community.

9. What are the seasons like?

Burundi in general has a tropical highland climate, with a considerable daily temperature range in many areas. Temperature also varies considerably from one region to another, chiefly as a result of differences in altitude. The central plateau enjoys pleasantly cool weather, with an average temperature of 20° C (68° F ). The area around Lake Tanganyika is warmer, averaging 23° C (73° F ); the highest mountain areas are cooler, averaging 16° C (60° F ). Bujumbura’s average annual temperature is 23° C (73° F ). Rain is irregular, falling most heavily in the northwest. Dry seasons vary in length, and there are sometimes long periods of drought. However, four seasons can be distinguished: the long dry season (June–August), the short wet season (September–November), the short dry season (December–January), and the long wet season (February to May). Most of Burundi receives between 130 and 160 cm (51–63 in) of rainfall a year. The Ruzizi Plain and the northeast receive between 75 and 100 cm (30–40 in).

10. What are some interesting facts about the President?

President Pierre Nkurunziza has served in the position since 2005. He was the Chairman of the National Council for the Defense of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD), the ruling party, until he was elected as President of Burundi. On 7 June 2018, Nkurunziza announced that he would not seek another term and step down when his current term ends in 2020. He was born in Bujumbura, and has a wife and 5 children.

11. What are the country’s major industries?

The economy is predominantly agricultural, accounting for 50% of GDP in 2017 and employing more than 90% of the population. Subsistence agriculture accounts for 90% of agriculture. Burundi’s primary exports are coffee and tea, which account for 90% of foreign exchange earnings, though exports are a relatively small share of GDP. Other agricultural products include cotton, tea, maize, sorghum, sweet potatoes, bananas, manioc (tapioca); beef, milk and hides.

12. What are some of the things visitors can look forward to experiencing in Burundi?

Major tourist attractions include the Kibira National Park, Ruvubu National Park, Ruzizi River Park, and National Museum of Gitega.

Traditional dance performed in Burundi.

13. What is a popular local drink?

Popular drinks include urwarwa (homemade banana wine) and impeke (beer brewed from sorghum).

14. What is a popular local dish?

Burundi cuisine is very representative of the African culinary culture, as it includes beans, which are the staple of Burundi cooking, exotic fruits (mainly bananas), plantains, sweet potatoes, cassava, peas, maize and cereals, like corn and wheat. Profiteroles are also sometimes enjoyed as a rare delicacy. Not much meat is consumed in Burundi, because animal breeding is a secondary occupation; still, there are some dishes that include goat and sheep meat but cows are very sacred.

15. What do you pay, on average, for the following? (1 USD = approx. 1,835 Burundian francs)

Burundi’s currency is the Burundian franc.

3 Course meal: 19,000 francs
Domestic beer: 2,000 francs
Cup of coffee: 3,200 francs
Coca cola (330ml): 1,500 francs
Milk (1l): 1,200 francs
Loaf of white bread: 2,000 francs
Apples (1 kg): 3,200 francs
Water (1.5l): 2,200 francs

16. Any general safety tips?

  • Do not walk around Bujumbura at night.
  • The road north of Bujumbura towards Cibitoke should be avoided.
  • Do not attempt to visit the Parc National de la Kibira or Parc National de la Ruvubu.
  • Do not travel anywhere by road at night.
  • Avoid the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) border areas.
  • Carry your passport at all times.

17. In conclusion, famous (and sometimes infamous) people from the country include:

  • Khadja Nin, a singer and musician. Her first album was released in 1992, and sung in Swahili.
  • Vénuste Niyongabo, a former middle-distance runner. Niyongabo won a silver medal in the 1500 m at the 1992 World Junior Championships and also came fourth over 800 metres.


For information as to how Relocation Africa  can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, and Remuneration needs, email, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2], [3], [4], [5], [6], [7], [8]. Image sources: musiccity [1], [2], [3].

Opinion: Africa’s Success Relies on its Capacity to Harness its Youth’s Potential

Although the headwinds facing globalization are growing in force around the globe, it has not yet managed to stem the desire by many to relocate in search of better prospected. Africa is no exception. According to the most recent round of the Afrobarometer survey, a continental public opinion survey conducted in 34 countries, more than one in three Africans have considered emigrating at the time of the interviews between 2016 and 2018.

This sentiment was particularly strong within the young and educated cohorts of the sample. About half of young adults (aged 18-25 years), and the same proportion and highly educated respondents indicated that they have given thought to the possibility of leaving their home countries in search of better opportunities. This has implications for the continent’s development.
According to the Population Division of the United Nations’ Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), Africa’s demographic profile currently displays a youth bulge.

Although fertility rates are slowly declining, the continent still has the fastest-growing youth population, with about 60% below the age of 25. The possibility of a so-called ‘demographic dividend’ to be derived from the continent’s youthful population, can only materialize if young people are educated and employable. If, however, those who fall within this category are keen to look for opportunities elsewhere in the world, the prospects for leveraging this potential demographic windfall are diminished. The chart below shows the proportion of those who have considered emigrating by socio-demographic group using the latest Afrobarometer data from 34 countries.

There may be several reasons why young people are considering the possibility of emigrating. Arguably, the lack of sustainable economic opportunities counts among the them. Youth unemployment might be a global phenomenon, particularly in the context of international economic stagnation, but the lack of congruence between the promise of a demographic dividend, and the and growing unemployment certainly does not encourage the prospect for a better life among young Africans. Research shows that a significant majority of young Africans are currently facing unemployment. It may be a virtue, but patriotism does not put food on the table, and according to the Afrobarometer data, shown below, finding work and escaping economic hardship count among the most frequently cited reasons to consider emigrating.

Given that migration is mostly driven by social and economic factors, policy responses should be on the creation of opportunities for young people to enter economic supply chains. Their ability to leverage such opportunities will, in turn, depend on the quality of education that they received. As such, investment in relevant education pathways into the economy would be critical. In light of this, developed countries, governments and public organisations should to create the room for young Africans to thrive. Failing to heed the needs and expectations of young people will come at a high price for the prosperity of the continent, its governance and the ability to retain and up-skill this essential constituency.

Gugu Nonjinge is a Project Leader at the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR). Are you interested to read more about IJR’s research and community reconciliation work? Visit their website on, like their Facebook page or follow them on Twitter.


For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: Josh Nezon [1], [2].

SA Home Affairs Asks United Nations HRC for Help with Refugee Backlog

The Department of Home Affairs has approached the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to help it clear the 150 000 refugee status appeals backlog, according to Director of Asylum Seekers, Mandla Madumisa.

Madumisa was speaking at the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) on recently, GroundUp reports.

The SAHRC subpoenaed Acting Home Affairs Director-General, Thulani Mavuso, to address complaints that the department takes an inordinately long time to process asylum applications and permanent residence permits.

SAHRC chairperson Bongani Majola, said his institution had struggled to engage with Home Affairs for the past year so a subpoena was necessary.

Majola said: “Home Affairs is a central structure that affects so many people’s lives.”

A working relationship should be established between the commission and Home Affairs so that individual cases could be dealt with efficiently, he said.


Majola asked Home Affairs representatives if any progress had been made on the backlog of refugee appeals.

Madumisa said a consultant from UNHRC was appointed and started in May. The consultant would assess the situation at Home Affairs and would come up with a comprehensive plan to deal with the backlog.

“By the end of July the department will receive that report and we will have a clear way forward on how we will deal with the backlog,” he said.

Mavuso said Home Affairs also struggled with the verification of information when it came to spousal visa applications. He said the turnaround time for the department is currently eight months but he said it was looking into extending it to 18 months.

“Eight months becomes a challenge because an adjudicator cannot touch an application before the inspector can put a stamp on the verification of information including supporting documents,” he said.

He said this meant that the inspectors would need to do various interviews and confirm that the information presented to Home Affairs is verified.

“You have cases where people submit police clearance documents but the documents have been totally manipulated… so because of the constraints on the ground of the inspectors, we will have to ensure that the [turn around] period increases,” he told the panel.

Mavuso said the turnaround time depended on whether the information provided was easily verified.

SAHRC commissioner Angie Makwetla asked Mavuso whether Home Affairs kept the applicants informed on the status of their application “because a person can’t wait from 2016 to 2018 and not know what is happening”.

Jackie McKay, Deputy Director General of Immigration, responded: “We would love to do that. In fact any good department would do that. But I have 22 people who deal with all of these cases… I’m working my staff to the bone.”

He said Home Affairs did not have systems in place that could automate those updates but he said it was currently working on a system that would make it more efficient.


For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].

Home Affairs Focusing on People Working in South Africa on the Wrong Visa

The Department of Home Affairs has published its first directive for 2019, aiming to clamp down on foreigners working in the country on ‘business trip’ visas.

According to Marisa Jacobs, director at Xpatweb, the directive clarifies that Section 11(2) visas are not to be used continuously and are specifically to allow for ‘short term project resources in South Africa’.

“The issuing of this directive indicates a common misuse of the visa category by employers where they are making use of the relaxed nature of visa requirements of this category to bring resources into South Africa and then continuously extending or applying for new visas when they should, in fact, be pursuing a long term work visa,” she said.

“The directive now sets out clearly that the visa may only be applied for once in a calendar year and only extended once for a period not exceeding three months. The maximum period is thus six months.”


According to Jacobs, there is a broad misrepresentation by business travelers – especially those travelling from visa exempt countries – who enter South Africa on a holiday/business visa while in fact conducting work in South Africa.

“When an employee comes to render employment services in South Africa, make sure they get a valid short-term work visa,” she said.

“Do not take a chance and tell the immigration official this is only a business trip, when the purpose is work.

“It is easy to be compliant and not worth the risk. The process takes 5 – 10 working days and the short-term visa is issued for three months and may be extended in South Africa for a further three months.”

Consequences of working on a Business Visa

Where an expatriate is found on your premises conducting work without the necessary authorization on their visa to conduct such work, the Immigration Act clearly sets out the implications for both the expatriate and the employer, said Jacobs.

This includes arrest and deportation for the foreign national and a fine and/or arrest for the employer depending on the offence, she said.

“The issuing of the above directive points to a more vigilant Department with their eye on individuals and businesses who do not comply with the conditions of their visas.

“This is a good time to ensure all employees are compliant and your organisation is in the green.”


For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].

SA President Ramaphosa Has Announced The Country’s New Cabinet

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced the 28 individuals who have been chosen to form the country’s new cabinet. The President said he had reduced the Cabinet from 36 to 28 as part of his plans to reconfigure the state.

Mergers, Gender, and Age

Some departments have been merged such as Trade and Industry, which was combined with Economic Development; Higher Education and Training combined with Science and Technology; Environmental Affairs combined with Forestry and Fisheries; Agriculture combined with Land Reform and Rural Development, and Mineral Resources combined with Energy. Human Settlements has been combined with Water and Sanitation while Sports and Recreation combined with Arts and Culture.

Ramaphosa said that half of the ministers are women (making good on his promise of a balance of men and women in the new cabinet), and that there are now a number of young people in cabinet positions. Ramaphosa said his appointment of young people was part of his fulfilment of his commitment to give young people roles of responsibility. “This is part of a generational transition in which we are creating a pipeline of leaders to take our country further into the future,” he said.

The African National Congress Women’s League (ANCWL) is pleased that half of the president’s new Cabinet are women. ANCWL’s general secretary Meokgo Matuba said: “As disciplined as we’re, we still have further consultation and engage with those who are deployed various spheres of government to get to align our role in dealing with socio-economic challenges that we’re faced with as a country.”

Ramaphosa’s announcement follows weeks of speculation about who would be included and who will be left out from the previous cabinet. He has also faced tough pressure to appoint a scandal-free cabinet which does not include individuals who have been tainted by allegations of corruption.

Notably, Deputy President David Mabuza has retained his position, after initially delaying his being sworn in as an MP so as to report to the ANC’s Integrity Commission on matters concerning his conduct. Mabuza supported Ramaphosa in his initial bid for the Presidency in 2017.

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was appointed to the portfolio of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs. She competed with Ramaphosa for ANC leadership in 2017.

Pravin Gordhan has been retained as Minister of Public Enterprises. The move came despite the fact that Gordhan has still not been legally “cleared” by the court after Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s adverse finding against him last week. Gordhan has lodged an application for a court review of the protector’s report, but there has been no decision yet. Ramaphosa’s move may indicate confidence in Gordhan, and a rejection of Mkhwebane’s assessments.

Office Holders

The office holders can be seen in the table below.

Surprise Appointment

Interestingly, GOOD party leader Patricia de Lille has been appointed a Minister in the ANC’s new cabinet. After a protracted debate with the DA in the Western Cape, former Cape Town Mayor de Lille formed the GOOD party not long before the 2019 general election, and won seats in both the National Assembly and the Western Cape Provincial Parliament.

de Lille has pledged to “continue the struggle for dignity and fairness for all South Africans”. In a short statement after her appointment on Wednesday night, the GOOD party leader said she was humbled to have received the call from president Cyril Ramaphosa to serve in his Cabinet.

She said her new post would enable her to continue fighting for an accountable and compassionate government. “On President Ramaphosa’s election to the Presidency last week I pledged GOOD’s constructive support for turning South Africa around.

“This support we will wholeheartedly give, but I will be joining President Ramaphosa’s executive with open eyes and ears as a representative of good South Africans of integrity who love their country and demand better of their leaders,” said de Lille.


The reappointment of finance minister Tito Mboweni and minister of public enterprises Pravin Gordhan has been positively received by the market, with Ramaphosa also ditching controversial figures such as Nomvula Mokonyane and Bathabile Dlamini.

Democratic Alliance (DA) Leader Mmusi Maimane said that there was very little to inspire in the line-up. “This is a Cabinet that looks the same actors playing to the same script, they’ve just been reshuffled along the deck and our focus now is to refine our plan, a plan that will bring us jobs”.

Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema is not impressed with President Cyril Ramaphosa’s cabinet for a number of reasons, including stating that it is still too large. Malema said, “There was no way [The President] was going to reduce cabinet because he wants to balance factions. He must appease everyone so that there is no war declared against him”. Malema was referring to the notion that factions within the ANC aligned with former President Jacob Zuma, including those in Parliament and those at Luthuli House, as well as organizations that the ANC consults on such decisions (which include the South African Communist Party and trade union COSATU) all have their own agendas and attempt to influence the President.

The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP)’s response was lukewarm. Member of Parliament and spokesperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa said that the only real surprise inclusion in the new Cabinet was the inclusion of De Lille. “It’s safe to say the only surprise is Patricia de Lille, for the president to get an opposition member into the Cabinet,” Hlengwa said.

Promises from the President

At his inauguration on Saturday, Ramaphosa admitted that the journey ahead was not easy. He faces expectations for a clean-up of corruption which has engulfed a number of government departments and crucially state-owned enterprises.

“In recent times, our people have watched as some of those in whom they had invested their trust have surrendered to the temptation of power and riches. They have seen some of the very institutions of our democracy eroded and resources squandered. The challenges that we face are real. But they are not insurmountable,” Ramaphosa said.

The President also faces the tough battle of dealing with social economic issues that have plagued the country including rising unemployment and an under-performing economy. There is also the issue of a lack or poor service delivery in many parts of the country.

In his announcement on Wednesday, Ramaphosa said revitalising the economy is key while also ensuring that the public purse is kept in check. He said a reconfigured State is a process and journey and that combining the various departments was part of the process.

Ministerial Benefits

Ministers are slated to earn R2,401,633, while Deputy Ministers are expected to cost taxpayers R1,977,795 each in the 2018/19 financial year. Deputy President David Mabuza is set to earn R2,825,470. For comparison, a normal member of the National Assembly (MP) will earn R1,106,940, while the leader of a minority party will earn R1,309,563.

Had the cabinet been kept the same (at 72 members, with 36 ministers and 34 deputies) the total cost – excluding the President – would have come to R156.5 million. The reduced cabinet will save the country R19.2 million during the financial year.

AfricaCheck reports that some of the major perks include private cars, official vehicles, accommodation, travel expenses, and other expenses.


For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2], [3], [4], [5], [6], [7], [8], [9]. Image sources: [1], [2].